McLovin'… Sandman… Optimus Prime… Blackbriar…
You might have grown familiar with these characters/terms at local theaters this summer movie season from early May to Labor Day weekend. This year’s cinematic escapism had something for everyone as audiences emptied their coffers. As marketing wizards and film producers plan for another sequel-heavy summer in 2008, it’s time to reminisce on this recording-breaking season.
The quintessential hat trick of trilogies — Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At The World’s End — all grossed more than 300 million stateside and even more overseas. Transformers also hit that mark while Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix still might cross that point, making five 300 million dollar blockbusters — a summer box office first!
The best “three-quel”, The Bourne Ultimatum and Pixar’s computer animated Ratatouille got higher marks, but lower cash receipts – each crossed 200 million. The Simpsons Movie became one of the most successful television-to-movie crossover hits, coming close to 190 million.
One hundred million dollar firecrackers included Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the surprisingly good Live Free or Die Hard. Ocean’s 13, the second best three-quel, might be this year’s only trilogy that doesn’t continue, though Rush Hour 3 might have ended too. The star-studded Hairspray might have bolstered the current popularity of High School Musical 2 (dancing to home video December 11) while proving the musical genre still has life. The monetary success of Knocked Up, Evan Almighty, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Superbad brought even more bucks.
The thriller genre became a feast or famine endeavor. Thankfully audiences largely ignored questionable movies like Captivity and Hostel 2. The hit hotel room thriller 1408 revived the genre while putting Stephen King back in the limelight. Later it seemed the thriller genre was decreasing again when a solid film like Invasion opened with only about six million until Rob Zombie’s take on the Halloween franchise ended the summer with a 30 million plus opening.
Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Superbad) became an everyman comedy star while veteran Andy Griffith returned to the big screen in the Keri Russell film Waitress. The cooking romance No Reservations became a sleeper hit while Lindsay Lohan (Georgia Rule, I Know Who Killed Me) was box office kryptonite. Robin Williams’ familiar shtick in License to Wed couldn’t succeed even with rising stars Mandy Moore (Walk to Remember) and John Krasinski (The Office television series).
Arguably the two most beautiful women in the world (after my wife and daughter) found limited success with their releases A Mighty Heart (Angelina Jolie) and The Last Legion (Aishwarya Rai). The kid friendly Underdog had recognizable voice talent (My Name is Earl's Jason Lee) and might have done even better with a bigger star. The science fiction Sunshine, Vietnam POW drama Rescue Dawn, and serial killer themed Mr. Brooks had darker themes, while even lighter fare like the stunt comedy Hot Rod and sleuther Nancy Drew still couldn’t draw big audiences at theaters.
These leading actress showcases had hit potential, but will likely find more success on home video: the Michelle Pfieffer fantasy Stardust, women’s soccer origin drama Gracie and Alzheimer’s disease heartbreaker Away From Her. Bratz, Bug and Daddy Day Care couldn’t make an impression while similar stinkers like Agua Teen Hunger Force (good beginning, rest was terrible) and Delta Farce have already been released on home video. Be sure to catch these notable summer 2007 titles, which didn’t get a wide release in theaters, on home video: the musical Once, the personal Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) and the eclectic romance Paris, Je’ Taime.
Overall, the box office tallies and special effects continued to overshadow filmmaking talent and better plots usually reserved for the fall/winter schedule usually reserved for Oscar® contenders. Sequels over story. Style over substance. Hollywood mainly listens to the almighty dollar during summertime. Money making franchises and sure shot sequels are inevitable, but if enough rich character gems like Once, Ratatouille and Bourne Ultimatum continue, then the summer season will satisfy all audiences.